As the next group of rookies gets set to hear their names called this week during the WNBA Draft, many of the league’s stars are overseas preparing to compete for championship trophies.
The EuroLeague Final Four features numerous WNBA players on each team, including three former MVPs in Nneka Ogwumike, Candace Parker and Diana Taurasi. The Final Four games are scheduled to be played Friday in Ekaterinburg, Russia, followed by the championship and 3rd-4th place games on Sunday.
Taurasi’s UMMC Ekaterinburg and Ogwumike’s Dynamo Kursk are the favorites to meet in the final, having finished with the best record in their respective groups. The two Russian sides are also scheduled to battle in the Russian League championship series later this month. They split the season series of two games in the Russian League, with each team handing the other its only loss of the regular season.
Here is a preview of both semifinal games ahead of this week’s Final Four action.
Dynamo Kursk (Russia) vs. ZVVZ USK Praha (Czech Republic)
Led by Ogwumike and Atlanta Dream forward Angel McCoughtry, Dynamo Kursk is seeking its first-ever appearance in the EuroLeague championship game. In the club’s only other Final Four appearance, they finished third in the 2014-15 season. McCoughtry is leading Dynamo Kursk with 16.4 points per game this season, while Ogwumike is averaging 15.5 points and a EuroLeague-high 10.5 rebounds per contest. Minnesota’s Anna Cruz helps run the offense and is the initiates the squad’s potent offense with a team-high 5.7 assists per game.
This will be the third straight Final Four appearance for USK Praha, which won the EuroLeague title two seasons ago. The squad is led by Serbian forward Sonja Petrovic, who spent this past WNBA season with the Phoenix Mercury and played for the Chicago Sky in 2012. Petrovic ranks third in the EuroLeague with 17 points per game. In addition, fellow WNBA players Kia Vaughn and Marta Xargay are both contributing about 11 points per game.
USK Praha went 9-5 in EuroLeague group play, including a pair of losses to Dynamo Kursk, which finished a perfect 14-0.
UMMC Ekaterinburg (Russia) vs. Fenerbahce (Turkey)
The defending champions, UMMC Ekaterinburg, are making their 10th consecutive appearance in the Final Four. They are led by a six-time EuroLeague champion in Taurasi, who has won the title twice with UMMC Ekaterinburg and four times with Spartak Moscow. Taurasi paces the team with 18.3 points per game, and Mercury teammate Brittney Griner is averaging 16.6 points and 6.4 boards. The two Phoenix stars are playing alongside Washington Mystics stars Emma Meesseman and Kristi Toliver, who average 10.4 and 9.1 points per game, respectively.
Their opponent, Fenerbahce, is the team Taurasi played for in 2010-11. The current squad is led by the reigning WNBA Finals MVP in Parker, plus a pair of others that helped L.A. win the championship in Jantel Lavender and Sandrine Gruda. Lavender, Gruda and Chicago Sky guard Allie Quigley are all averaging at least 13 points per game in EuroLeague play for Fenerbahce. Parker joined the team just before the playoffs commenced, and she’s scored 15.7 points per game in her three appearances.
Fenerbahce is in the Final Four for the sixth consecutive year, but the club has yet to win a EuroLeague title.